Forgetfulness and dementia are two different conditions, although some overlap in symptoms occurs. A senior who occasionally forgets why she entered a room is experiencing age-related memory changes. However, when memory lapses worsen over time, dementia is likely the culprit.
Normal memory changes occur as people age. The brain, along with the body, undergoes physiological changes as people grow older. Major memory loss, however, is not inevitable, due to the fact that the brain is capable of generating new brain cells throughout an individual’s entire lifetime.
Similar to muscle strength, the brain should be exercised often to remain in optimal shape. Seniors who include physical exercise, mental workouts and opt for a healthy lifestyle give their brain the opportunity to perform at its best. Healthy habits are critical to helping prevent memory loss.
What are causes of normal memory changes?
Three primary reasons cause age-related forgetfulness: 1) The region of the brain that retrieves memories, the hippocampus, deteriorates with age; 2) Hormones that repair brain cells also deteriorate; and 3) Blood flow to the brain decreases in the elderly, leading to cognitive decline.
Age-related memory changes are normal. As the brain ages, people may take longer to learn new information. Seniors also fail to recall details as well as they used to. Losing possessions, like car keys or glasses, is also common. Instances of mild forgetfulness are not indicative of dementia.
Medical conditions, too, can cause temporary memory problems. Serious memory issues may result from blood clots, tumors, head injury, medication side effects or consuming too little vitamins, such as vitamin B12. Once conditions are treated, the severe memory problems disappear.
Emotional issues, such as depression, anxiety and stress, can lead to transient memory problems that could be mistaken for dementia. A senior who is depressed due to the passing of a loved one, for instance, may display forgetfulness or confusion while trying to cope with the loss.
An elderly person who struggles with a recent tragedy is likely to be preoccupied by the upsetting feelings, leading to forgetfulness of the minor details in other areas of life. Rather than a sign of dementia, the memory lapses in such instances are temporary and normal.
Treatment for emotional stressors includes counseling, medications or a combination of the two. Professional help from a physician or counselor should be sought when the intense feelings remain for more than two weeks. Support from friends and family also eases the emotional pain.
What are signs of dementia?
While normal memory changes are common, certain signs are indicative of dementia. A senior who forgets important information, including loved ones’ names, or has an inability to recall certain words, displays extreme forgetfulness. Such severe lapses in memory signal cognitive decline.
Normal memory lapses differ from dementia in other key areas. In normal aging, a senior may occasionally make a poor decision; but in cases of dementia, the senior suffers from poor judgment or makes bad decisions frequently. Inappropriate social behavior is also an outcome of dementia.
How responsibly an elderly individual pays bills is also revealing. A senior with normal memory loss is likely to miss paying a bill once in a while. However, when forgetting to pay monthly bills becomes habitual, severe cognitive decline is underway. Dementia is likely the cause of forgetfulness.
A senior with normal memory loss might forget what day it is; however, the individual will remember the date at a later time. Dementia is responsible when the elderly lose track of the time of year or date altogether and are unable to recall them later.
In conversation, a senior may slip when using words. Forgetting some words during the course of a conversation is normal. In instances of dementia, the older adult will have extreme difficulty keeping up with a discussion. Words are misused and stories are repeated in the same conversation.
While traveling locally, for instance, a senior who experiences normal memory changes may pause to try to recall directions; the individual is not lost. Dementia has set in when an older person gets lost in familiar places; and, the senior is also unable to follow directions.
Independent function is a telltale sign of whether a senior has normal memory lapses or is experiencing dementia. In the former instance, the individual is able to function in daily activities, despite having minor memory issues. A person with dementia is unable to perform without assistance.
Washing up, dressing appropriately or paying bills, for instance, are forgotten in people with dementia. People with dementia no longer have the ability to take care of their daily needs independently. They are unable to complete the routine tasks they have accomplished so often in the past.
What is MCI?
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) falls in between normal age-related forgetfulness and full-blown dementia. Signs of MCI display as problems with language, memory, thinking and judgment. People with MCI are still able to function independently. Over time, MCI may plateau or progress into dementia.
Assisting Hands Dementia Care
Whether an aging loved one shows signs of mild forgetfulness or the initial stages of dementia, extra support is beneficial. Assisting Hands Richmond is a Home Care agency with a team of dedicated memory care service providers who make life easier for indviduals with memory changes.
Memory loss can lead to a host of problems, such as incontinence, uncharacteristic agitation and wandering. In each of these scenarios, memory care experts from Assisting Hands Richmond understand how to gently return the individuals to safety and comfort.
Our dementia care services are comprehensive. Our non-medical services include meal preparation, transportation, assistance with personal care, including grooming, bathing and dressing, and medication reminders. As a part of our companionship services, we keep your loved one engaged and mentally stimulated.
Families in the surrounding communities of Richmond, Virginia, place their trust in Assisting Hands Richmond. We ensure our care recipients with dementia or any stage of forgetfulness continue to thrive in daily life. Call Assisting Hands Richmond today (804) 500-9787 for a free in home consultation to determine if our compassionate memory care services could provide your family the support and assistance that they need.